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Cutting A Sorry Figure

NYOOOZ 2017-05-20 06:52:59

If distributor Bablu Damani's records are to be believed, the Hindi version of 'Baahubali 2: The Conclusion' has done a gross collection of Rs 14.5 crore at the Bengal box office in the first week. In the second week, the collection was Rs 8.30 crore. For a film that has shattered all box-office records, this isn't surprising. But the figures actually tell another story " by showing the true potential of the Bengal market, which has largely been untapped.The common refrain in the Tollygunge film industry is that investing Rs 2 crore for a film makes sound business sense. Anything above that is very ambitious. "However, in the recent past, no film has had even a third of the occupancy that 'Baahubali 2' has had in Bengal. The Bengali film industry has not been able to cater to the theatres in the district in the recent past at all. This film is a breather for them," says Arijit Dutta, owner of Priya cinema.NUMBERS GAMEOne of Tollywood's biggest problems is the absence of any objective number-crunching. Unlike Mumbai, which has its trade guides, Kolkata churns out conflicting trade figures from industry honchos. While the makers bleed, Twitter campaigns and posters turn most movies into "blockbusters". Producer Mahendra Soni's top five first-week box-office grossers are 'Chander Pahar' and then 'Mishwar Rahasyo', 'Awara', 'Goynar Baksho' and 'Paglu'; producer Himanshu Dhanuka's list has 'Chander Pahar', 'Khokababu', 'Paglu', 'Khoka 420' and 'Boss'; producer Atanu Raychaudhuri's top 6 list has 'Chander Pahar', 'Praktan', 'Posto', 'Poran Jae Joliya Re', 'Chirodini... Tumi Je Amar' and 'Mishwar Rosohyo'. Krishna Daga, chairperson of Eastern India Motion Pictures Association, insists that 'Chander Pahar', 'Chirodini... Tumi Je Amar', 'Paglu', 'Paran Jae Joliye Re' and 'Belaseshe' make up his top-five list. The first week box-office gross collection of 'Posto' " the biggest Bengali film till May this year " hasn't touched Rs 2 crore. Soni, who has produced 'Chander Pahar', claims the first week gross box-office collection of that film was Rs 7.2 crore. His rivals claim this film smashed all previous first-week Tolly trade records, but didn't even make half of the first week gross box-office figures of 'Baahubali 2' in Bengal.ARE COMPARISONS RELEVANT?Director Srijit Mukherji insists that a spectacle like 'Baahubali 2' is exceptional because of its budget and VFX labour. "Producers also ensured that the film was dubbed in a language that the rest of India would understand. If the first week's collection is five times more than that of any Bengali film, one must remember that the budget of this film is 100 times that of a Bengali movie. Besides, the confidence that Telugu cinema has in their market is something that hasn't yet been instilled here," Mukherji feels.Directors want more investment while producers search for makers who can assure great returns. Director Kaushik Ganguly harps on the fact that dividends will increase with spend. "You can't make a pandal with a two-metre cloth. Even if we have skill, we can't make such movies because of budget constraints. Since we are used to making films on small budgets, we can't create spectacles," he says.CAN TOLLYWOOD PULL OFF A 'SAIRAT'?The Rs 250-crore 'Baahubali 2' might be reaping epic benefits because of its grandeur. But what stops Bengal from throwing up a success story like that of 'Sairat'? This non-star cast Marathi movie " made on a budget of Rs 4 crore " had collected Rs 25 crore in the first week in Maharashtra. Director Arindam Sil believes Tollywood can't make a 'Sairat'. "Caught in the polarised world of rural and urban audience, we are failing to make films that bridge the gap. We present figures " fudged or otherwise " to prove we are doing great," Sil says.If a film is made on a budget of Rs 2.5 crore and doesn't get satellite rights, it will have to do a theatrical business of Rs 5.5 crore for the producer to break even. "That is only possible if a film has houseful shows at the same number of theatres for at least four weeks. Instead of giving facts, we are cheating the audience and the media by saying Bengali films have had record-breaking business. Nobody follows up to check if the business is sustained for four weeks," Sil says. Producer Atanu Raychaudhuri believes 'Sairat' could do so much business in Maharashtra because it had the support of around 250 multiplexes. "We don't have so many multiplexes in Bengal. If 'Sairat' was dubbed in Bengali and screened here, I doubt it would have done this business. The presentation of 'Baahubali 2' is so grand due to its budget that people are ready to watch the film even in C-grade theatres," Raychaudhuri says.BUDGET EXCUSEThere are many who believe that Tollywood is ducking under the budget excuse without accepting the dearth of good content. Film scholar Sanjay Mukhopadhya is not sure whether any contemporary Bengali filmmaker will be able to handle the kind of resources that 'Baahubali 2' got. "They lack the expertise," he feels.Producer Himanshu Dhanuka predicts that the lifetime collection of 'Baahubali 2' in Bengal will cross Rs 30 crore. "This figure only shows that a no-star film with a non-holiday release can achieve this success. At my theatre in Binapani Dubrajpur, 'Baahubali 2' did business of Rs 1,70,000 on a non-festive first week. A super-hit Bengali film released on Eid had done Rs 1 lakh in the first week. In the second week, 'Baahubali 2' did a gross box-office business of Rs 1 lakh. The Bengali film's business fell to Rs 25,000," Dhanuka says.He insists that this film proves there is no deficit in the spendi...

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